There are no excuses for this one.
The Bruins are a more “well rested” team after arriving on Long Island on Friday night while the Islanders didn’t land in New York City until 1 a.m. after winning a 5-4 shootout Friday night against the Ottawa Senators. The Bruins also seemed to find their game in the final 30 plus minutes against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night, and finally got some secondary scoring from their third line with the first NHL goal from Carl Soderberg.
They even have some “feel good” vibes knowing that Loui Eriksson hopped on the ice for the first time Saturday morning since suffering a concussion back on Oct. 23 from a John Scott head shot. The only downer is that Johnny Boychuk missed the trip with an undisclosed injury that has him in a day-to-day situation, but that injury just means Matt Bartkowski gets back into the fray after serving as a healthy scratch the for last two weeks.
“[Back-to-backs] are tough games to play, and that’s where the Islanders are at tonight,” said Claude Julien. “I’d put us as okay. Our record is okay, but we could always be playing a little better. Injuries and the schedule play a role in how the team plays.
“We’ve had some long stretches where didn’t play and it was hard to get on a roll, and then we have three games in four days for a couple of weeks in a row. Those have been challenges. When we get deeper into the schedule, you get an idea of how your team is.”
A Saturday night game against an Islanders team battling fatigue should give Julien the exact kind of idea of what he’s looking for with his Bruins team.
PLAYER IN NEED OF HIS TIRES PUMPED: Gregory Campbell is still in search of his first point on the season and has only eight shots on net in 12 games centering the fourth line. While Campbell has never been an offensive force, he’s usually a bit more involved in the secondary offense than he’s been this season. He’s still averaging 11:51 of ice time per game – a pretty good total for a fourth line center – but the entire Merlot Line is off to a slow start this season from a production standpoint. And Campbell is off to the slowest start of the three forwards, and could use a good bounce or two to get things going at the offensive end.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “You want to make the most of it when you can catch a team [in back-to-backs], and come out with a good start like teams have tried against us. We won’t take it for granted, but we also want to take advantage of the fact that the Islanders were playing.” – Jarome Iginla, on playing the Isles at Nassau Coliseum after they played all the way to a shootout against the Ottawa Senators on the road Friday night.
KEY MATCHUP: It will come down to a Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton defensemen pairing being able to shut down the new John Tavares and Thomas Vanek duo put together since the Isles/Sabres trade. Tavares and Vanek teamed up for one goal in their 5-4 shootout win against the Sens where the team totaled an NHL-high for this season of 57 shots on goal. Tavares and Vanek teamed up for 16 shot attempts and 10 shots on net, so they’re feeling into the offensive flow despite little time to build chemistry.
Vanek is also a noted Bruins killer over the years, so the Bruins will need Dougie to really up his D-zone play if they’re going to hold down the Islanders offensive attack.
STAT TO WATCH: 8 – the number of goals for Frans Nielsen this season, that’s two more than any Bruins player and two more than the Isles forward during the entirety of last season.
INJURIES: Loui Eriksson has been out since Oct. 23 with a concussion stemming a John Scott head shot, but got out on the ice for the first time Saturday afternoon on Long Island. Johnny Boychuk (undisclosed injury) didn’t make the trip to New York after injuring himself in the second period of Thursday night’s win over Anaheim when he crashed into the boards.
The Islanders are without defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body), as well as forward Colin McDonald (hip).
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask has played in 11 of the last 12 games for the Bruins, and backstopped both ends of the back-to-back against the Penguins and Ducks earlier this week. There’s a pretty good chance the B’s will go with backup netminder Chad Johnson against the Islanders after a 14-save performance earned him a win against the Buffalo Sabres back on Oct. 23.
The Isles may also opt for their backup netminder Kevin Poulin after Evgeni Nabokov manned the pipes for New York’s shootout win over the Senators, but he’s struggled out of the gate for the Islanders. Poulin has lost both of his starts (3.53 goals against average and .881 save percentage) and didn’t look good against a miserable Philadelphia Flyers hockey club last weekend.
Nabokov is off to a good start for the Islanders, and that may tempt head coach Jack Capuano to really ride his Russian netminder for a stretch.